I Gave a Career Coach $50 to Make My Desk Feel Less Stressful

published Jan 10, 2024
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Office with white large desk, pink cozy lounge chaise, plants, and art
Credit: Shifrah Combiths

My very favorite week of the year is that cozy, bleary, liminal one between Christmas and the new year, and one of the best things about it is that it’s followed by the biggest burst of fresh-start energy. Like most people, many of my new year intentions (a word I use deliberately instead of “resolutions”) revolve around habits. From moving my body more to recommitting to trying to get on top of laundry once and for all (sigh), habits are made up of the small choices that add up to much larger rewards (like health and … not having piles of laundry taunting me all the time). 

One area I like to examine around this time is how I can be most efficient, whether that’s at household chores or my grocery process. And especially how to be at peak performance while I’m working. I work from home and do my best to finish up while my kids are at school, so my work time has to be as focused, goal-oriented, and productive as possible. Recently, I rearranged my office and it’s had a profound effect on how I feel while I’m working. 

Inspired by this whole-room change, I wanted to get even more detailed. I wondered how my actual desk area could be optimized in a similar way. To find out, I turned to executive coach Vanessa Yu for tips on how to de-stress my desk with just a $50 budget. 

Yu explains that in assessing her clients’ workspaces, she always begins by asking two questions about their personal space: What is most important to you? And what are your needs? “Based on these answers,” she shares, “I help them explore why that thing or feeling or environment is most important to them. Then I help them explore the needs that are present in their space that would allow them to function well.” 

Yu tailors her suggestions according to each client’s needs. “Some clients thrive in structured chaos, some clients thrive with clear spaces, some clients thrive with beauty surrounding them,” she says. “It’s crucial to understand what you need to work well, write well, and achieve goals well. It’s also important to know how you want to feel in your work space.”

I shared a photo of my desk with Yu, exactly as it was on a normal day, and she was able to deduce a great deal. Here’s what she had to say: “Based on your photo, I notice in your space you like beauty, organization, hot drinks, and connection to your kids (their artwork).” Honestly, she nailed it. 

With these needs in mind, Yu suggested three items (for under $50!) that could elevate my workspace to help me be at my best while I work. These items, she says, would help me “maintain a clear desktop, organization, and a sense of calm and beauty and connection.”

Clear Acrylic Bookends

Yu explains that she thinks these would be a great addition, “so that you can have your organizer and any books or folders or binders standing up for easy access and clean lines.” Agreed. 

Multi-Purpose Stand

Yu suggests I use this stand to corral a coffee/tea station all in one place. This suggestion makes me realize that I should embrace the things that always end up on my desk as actual fixtures on my workspace — and create intentional space for them. 

An Essential Oil Diffuser

An oil diffuser, Yu says, would support my need for calm, peace, and creativity. I couldn’t agree more. A diffuser is not only safer than the candle I sometimes burn, but also, during dry months, the diffuser would add some much-needed humidity back into the air.